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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Incorporating: Grains Part 2

To continue with our series on incorporating various foods into both our stores and our everyday diets, corn is the obvious choice.


Corn is extremely versatile, stores well, appeals to most palates and is nutritious.  Not to mention the fact that Ohio is one of America's prime corn producers and chances are good that there are acres upon acres of corn grown in fields near you.  It's always good to know how to store and use locally produced foods, right?  Corn has been a staple food for Americans (both South and Native) for countless hundreds of years due to it's ease of preparation and  nutritional value.  Corn is chock full of fiber, calcium and folate, while low in sugar and fat.   It's also a very dense source of calories and carbohydrates which is extremely important in a survival situation.

Most corn available for storage purposes will fall into the dent or field corn category.  It's simply mature corn that has dried on the stalk and has hundreds of uses, from commercial cooking oil and ethanol to animal feed and corn meal.  It can be had for under a dollar a pound from sources like Honeyvill Grains, or if you're lucky, you may be able to find it locally at feed stores.  Just be careful what you buy if you go the feed store route; corn intended for animal feed is often treated with chemicals such as chlorine and fungicides to prevent mold and fungus. 

Dent corn can be used in so many different ways...parched into a simple, portable snack, ground for corn meal or cooked whole.  One thing I must mention though is that if we move from a diet of mainly wheat to a diet of mainly corn, it's will be difficult for our bodies to absorb the minerals and vitamins from the corn which can lead to all sorts of health issues.  In order to more readily absorb the nutrients, corn must undergo a process called nixtmalization; here's a link for you to describe the process of cooking corn in alkali water.  In the event that we need to heavily rely on corn as a staple food, nixtmalization will be a crucial skill to ensure good health and good eats. 

So what the heck do you do with this nixtmalized corn?  Cook it whole as hominy with some butter and spices.  Yum-o.  Or grind to make corn bread, hush puppies, rustic pancakes or breading for meats.  Mixed with salt and a little water, fresh ground cornmeal also makes delicious corn tortillas and chips.  Or cook it slow with water and salt to make a thick delicious cornmeal mush.  I know you're cringing right now, but homemade is really pretty good, especially topped with butter and honey.  You can also cool mush, slice it and fry it up to serve as polenta with some tomato sauce, fresh herbs and parmesan cheese.  My kids love polenta as a main course from time to time.  Here are some great recipes to try if you're so inclined.

Other options for your food storage are dried sweet corn and popcorn.  While dried sweet corn can be expensive to buy commercially, it can be made (and grown!) at home for pennies.  Dried sweet corn retains much of it's fresh, sweet flavor and is actually rather crisp, much like fresh corn.  Once it's rehydrated it can be cooked into soups and stews or mashed up a bit to act as a thickener and stretcher in casseroles.

Popcorn is another important option for your stores.  While it's inexpensive to purchase, it can also be grown easily enough in the backyard and harvested to really stretch your prepping dollar.  Don't relegate corn to just a snack food!  Popcorn is so good for you and versatile as well.  Pilgrims ate popped corn for breakfast with cream and sugar much like any other grain.  And did you know that ground popcorn makes the most delicious cornbread ever?  Oh it's true, my friend!  Pop-cornbread is light and fluffy and may be more appealing to people who have texture issues with traditional cornbread.  In addition, popcorn is a healthy, easily stored, easily prepared comfort food that pretty much everyone enjoys.  While we store a variety of popcorn, our favorite is the white hulless Amish varieties that can be found in stores everywhere.

So there's a quick overview of what's available in the corn department and what you can do with it.  I'd love to hear how the rest of you in Corn Country plan to make use of one of Ohio's best resources!

Next up: Oats and Barley


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Ed the Pilgrim said...

As for the cornmeal mush, fresh is best for breakfast! Just a quick sear on both sides and a bit of dark amber maple syrup..:)

Andrea said...

Is there anything dark amber maple syrup can't make delcious? I was blessed with a jug of the real stuff last year...and I'm rationing it until I can make it to New England and buy another bottle!

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